The Bulldogs main challenge will be replacing the contributions of Forwards Quinton Hosley (13.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg) and Dominic McGuire (13.5 ppg, 9.8 rpg, 3 apg, school record 114 blocks), who entered the NBA after his junior season. Although the Bulldogs have yet to find a true inside presence under Cleveland, Hosley and McGuire provided defensive intensity, rebounding, and tenacity on both ends of the floor that will be difficult to replace.
First mention will be the fact that FSU will be without transfer Forward Rekalin Sims for the tournament because of academic reasons. Sims should be back Monday, but his absence will provide an opportunity for players to get extended minutes and minutes they may otherwise not have accrued. This may be valuable early in the season.
This team begins and ends with senior point guard Kevin Bell (9.6 ppg, 5.6 apg). Bell enters as the favorite to be 1st team all WAC as he is the conferences leading returning assist man. Bell will be looked towards to distribute to an outstanding perimeter shooting team, disrupt opposing PGs, provide some scoring punch, and not to mention be the emotional leader of the Bulldogs. Bell is in phenomenal shape. He even looks to have added a few pounds of muscle, which can only help, as he will be called on to play extensive minutes, partly due to the loss of USC transfer Kevin Galloway who fell behind on class work and transferred to a JC.
At guard with Bell will be Eddie Miller (10.5 ppg, 87 3pt FGs). Miller led the team in 3 pointers made last season and will pick up where he left off. Coach Cleveland expects Miller to make 4 3 point field goals per game. Miller will be asked to help on the defensive boards with his athleticism, and will need to improve his on the ball defense. Hopefully, his confidence off the dribble has improved and he is more willing to put the ball on the floor when opponents fly out at him. His confidence is of the utmost importance and he must be mentally strong all season.
At the third G/SF spot will be Dwight O’Neil. He is coming off of a redshirt season and will provide instant toughness for the Bulldogs. He will be asked to penetrate and slash to the rim, backup Bell at PG, play tough defense, and help on the glass. He seems to have improved his shooting touch which if true could be deadly for an already perimeter oriented team, and also open up more lanes to penetrate.
At the Forwards will be Alex Blair and senior Hector Hernandez (11.2 ppg, 5.2 rpg). Blair will fill in for Sims while he is suspended and until he earns his spot back. Blair is an energy player that has defined and narrow roles-rebound the basketball on both ends, play solid defense, and finish when afforded the opportunity to score. Hernandez got valuable experience playing with the Mexican National team in the FIBA Americas tournament. He is in the best shape of his career and will be called on more than ever to provide some semblance of a post presence. He will continue to be a solid three point shooter, but he will be asked to rebound and defend the post also as the Bulldogs are thin in the frontcourt.
Off the bench on the perimeter will be Bryan Harvey, the Louisville transfer, and there may be very minimal minutes for backup PG Myles Green. Harvey brings size to the wing at 6’5” and very solid perimeter shooting. He will have to show an ability to get to the rim and be versatile on an FSU team that needs all players to expand their roles to fill in for obvious shortcomings in multiple facets of the game.
Frontcourt reserves include senior Shawn Taylor, freshman Brandon Webster, and fellow freshman Ned Golubovic. Taylor needs to step up in his last season, he will be asked to show improvement in post defense, rebounding on both ends of the floor, and in his general court savvy. Another welcome addition would be Taylor’s ability to hit the jump hook occasionally and show some sort of post game with his back to the basket. His roll is much defined and not much is asked of him. Webster is a long term project who has the ability to become very good. He needs to continue to get in better shape and adjust to the physical nature of the college game. Any court experience he can gain in the early going can only be beneficial as the season progresses. Golubovic was thought to be red-shirting but that may not be the case as he has shown the ability to step out and shoot to go with his size.
Lastly, we will focus on who may be the biggest key to the season in Rekalin Sims. Kalin is a transfer from Kentucky with one season to play. He is considered more of an old school player who will not wow opponents with his athleticism but uses his skill around the basket and court sense to make things happen. He is crafty around the basket and possesses the ability to step out and knock down the open jumper. He will have to come up big on the boards and also be able to step inside and show the ability to post up and shoot the jump hook with both hands. He should be extremely focused and hungry as this is last opportunity to leave his mark on college basketball.
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